Amy Leona Havin

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer from Rehovot, Israel, currently based in Portland, Oregon, by way of San Diego, California. She has trained in Tel Aviv under Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company studying Gaga Movement Language and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. Havin is the founder and artistic director of the Portland-based dance company The Holding Project with which she received a Disjecta Contemporary Art Center 2016 Artistic Residency. Her films have been showcased internationally in Israel, Greece, Mexico, Austria, and France, receiving awards from Mexico City Videodance International, Portland Dance Film Fest, Thessaloniki Cinedance, and more. Havin is the founder and host of the occasional reading series It’s Rhubarb, and her literary works can be read in publications such as The Dust Magazine, Unchaste Anthology, When She Rises, and Gravity According to Birds. With a process rooted in the duality of her upbringing, Havin weaves together a collectively introspective body of work, honoring both heritage and the natural world.


LitWatch July: Rockstars, Love Stories, and Open Mics

The Oregon literary scene sails through the heat of the summer with open mics, workshops, and virtual author readings

We all have records that we’ve fallen in love with at the very first listen of the very first song. Joni Mitchell’s Blue, which recently celebrated 50 years since its release on June 22, 1971, is one of mine. Whether you’re a fan of Joni’s high-pitched crooning, a pop music fanatic, a lover of Björk, or a metalhead at heart, odds are that American music critic Jessica Hopper has reviewed or chatted with your musician of choice.

Jessica Hopper by David Sampson

At only 44, Chicago-based author and music critic Jessica Hopper has interviewed and written about countless infamous and beloved musicians. Having started writing at the age of 15 in response to a Babes in Toyland review she disagreed with, Hopper has been a writer for Spin Magazine and The Guardian as well as being senior editor for Pitchfork. Author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking: How to Start a Band, Book Gigs, and Get Rolling to Rock Stardom and Night Moves, Hopper has been described as “influential” by The New York Times and “one of the most distinctive voices in the world of music criticism” by Paste Magazine’s Mack Hayden.


Radio Hour: What on Earth is Xingu?

Cygnet Productions presents "Xingu," an Edith Wharton radio play adaptation full of literature, lies, and laughter

What do you get when seven professional theater actors sit down at a table directed by long-time stage actor, producer, and playwright Louanne Moldovan – and hit the record button? Xingu: a lively, captivating radio hour with poignant cultural commentary and laughs to boot.

Edith Wharton pictured at her writing desk

Recording a radio hour, however, is not quite that simple. While the performers did record together in-person to replicate the chemistry and excitement of performing onstage, much production, thought, and deliberation went into crafting the perfect radio hour script and final product. Moldovan, Artistic Director of Cygnet Productions and winner of the 2004 Oregon Book Award for Drama, made the choice to switch her company’s theater productions over to radio when the pandemic shuttered all live on-stage theater performances.

“I thought it was an opportune time to create a radio theater ‘division’ of Cygnet. Clearly, I wasn’t alone – many companies jumped on the bandwagon, eager to remain creatively active and keep artists employed,” explained Moldovan over email.

After years as a working actor (Company of Angels Theatre) and co-leading the Women’s Writing Project at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Moldovan moved to Portland, where she continued her career with the Civic Theatre Guild and Artists Repertory Theatre after starting Cygnet Productions as a literary cabaret theater with actor Nyla McCarthy. Typically, Cygnet presents bustling live stage adaptations including a past performance of Xingu, from which many of the radio hour’s voice actors were cast.


Leanne Grabel talks about comedy, outrage and the heyday of Portland’s lit scene

A new interview series with Portland poets kicks off with long-time poetry activist Leanne Grabel

On a cloudy day in May, I sat at a wooden café patio table waiting to meet Portland poet Leanne Grabel for the first time. Though I had knowledge of her work, I wasn’t sure of what to expect during an era when in-person meetings still seem few and far between. My coffee was warm in my hand as the sun peeked periodically through the silver sky, and I looked up at the sound of an approaching bicycle. 

Leanne rode up to me like a ray of light beaming through a stormy fog, sporting a bright magenta sweatshirt embellished with sparkling gold hand-drawn flowers across the front of the Blazer logo, paired with reflective sunglasses resting over her expressive eyes.

“I brought some gifts!” she said cheerfully, as she reached into her horse-patterned carpetbag, pulling out three of her recent books. I leafed through them as she stepped away to order a latte.

Leanne performing at Ivories Jazz Lounge, photograph courtesy of Facebook


LitWatch June: Pride and plenty to read

Portland-based poet AE Hines announces the presale for his debut book of poems and virtual readings take center stage with many new releases

Cover of Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag Publishing Co.)

Nearly every year in June, thousands of individuals across the nation take to the streets to celebrate LGBT+ Pride Month with a series of parades, marches, events, and more. In honor of this year’s pride month, a new book of poems appears on the scene: June marks the presale of Portland author AE Hines’s debut collection of poetry, Any Dumb Animal, forthcoming November 2021 from North Carolina’s Main Street Rag Publishing Co.

According to Hines, the timing for this presale couldn’t be better due to “the book’s strong autobiographical narrative about [his] life growing up and coming out in the rural, evangelical south.” 

While this may be Hines’s first book of poems, he has been published before. Winner of The Red Wheelbarrow Prize and a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize, he has placed individual works in various publications including Canary and Crab Creek Review

What makes Any Dumb Animal particularly fitting for this month in addition to its autobiographical content is that the author and friends have organized a fundraiser in which proceeds of every book preordered will be matched with a donation to The Trevor Project. Founded in 1998 by Peggy Rajski, Randy Stone, and Celeste Lecesne, this nonprofit organization offers suicide prevention and crisis help for LGBTQ+ and transitioning individuals under 25 years of age.

AE Hines, courtesy of the author’s Twitter page

This compellingly candid work speaks the language of courage,
of breath-taking transcendence. Finely crafted, it is a remarkable debut collection. Take note, world: a powerful lyric poet has
emerged. Take note and rejoice!
Paulann Petersen, Sixth Oregon Poet Laureate on Any Dumb Animal

While you patiently await your preorder to arrive, take a look at the many book releases occurring this month. From Donna Ward’s She I Dare Not Name and Daisy Hernández’s The Kissing Bug to a Delve Readers Seminar on Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera presented by Literary Arts, June is the time for heading outside to enjoy a good book in the sunshine.


‘The Step Back’: Coming of age and basketball

Book review: J.T. Bushnell’s "The Step Back" is a coming-of-age story of family loyalty, bad decisions, and the redeeming abilities of empathy

Ed Garrison’s family home is a familiarly unhappy one, wracked with divorce and parent-child misunderstandings; the angst of a typical suburban upbringing. From the opening words of Eugene writer J.T. Bushnell’s debut novel – “Our dog ran away in May” – to the protagonist’s generally glum outlook through the first few chapters, The Step Back immerses the reader in the absorbing malaise of a teenage boy as he fumbles his way into adulthood.

Ooligan Press, publication date May 11, 2021
256 pages, paperback, $16

Children in America are constantly and unabashedly asked by teachers, parents, and television programs what they intend to “be” when they grow up. In Ed’s case, it seems that he’s known all his life: a basketball player. During the spring season of his final year in high school, Ed’s one true love is basketball – and he has a seemingly happy, wholesome family to come back to at the end of the day. This all changes when, one afternoon, after the disappearance of the family dog, his mother announces that she will be leaving them not only for Maryland, but for a relationship with a woman. This declaration becomes the catalyst in Bushnell’s new novel that sends Ed, his 14-year-old brother Charlie, and their father into a snowball of negligence and repression as they grapple with the unpleasantness of change.

J.T. Bushnell, author of “The Step Back.”

Mr. Garrison, Ed’s father, is a standoffish English professor, a sad but sweet workaholic with a stiff drink in hand: As his work life and hermit-like tendencies increasingly interfere with his ability to cultivate meaningful relationships with his sons, he does his best to offer life advice through a series of critical-thinking questions.


Joy Harjo: A poem is a sacred site

Joy Harjo on poetry, heritage, and the importance of honoring the land

“…We knew we were all related in this story, a little gin
will clarify the dark and make us all feel like dancing. We
had something to do with the origins of blues and jazz
I argued with a Pueblo as I filled the jukebox with dimes in June,
forty years later and we still want justice. We are still America. We
know the rumors of our demise. We spit them out. They die

Excerpt from An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo

It was a cloudy Tuesday afternoon as I sat on my couch, back to the window, and pushed my laptop open. Logging in to the Literary Arts & Lectures event page, there was an air of gratitude in the pre-event chatroom, poetry fans expressing their anticipation for the upcoming speaker: Joy Harjo

“We are here to acknowledge the gift of life, to express gratitude for coming together,” she began during a pre-recorded event introduction in which Harjo spoke of the importance of her upcoming projects and touched on the significance of honoring and protecting the land on which we live. “To guard the earth, as a person, as a mother, is not a romantic notion. It means we will have respect for life and the principle of motherhood.”

Joy Harjo/Photograph by Karen Keuhn

The April 20th edition of the 2020/2021 Literary Arts & Lectures Reading Series featured Joy Harjo, the first Native American (Muscogee Nation) poet, performer, and writer to be named Poet Laureate of the United States. As the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate, Harjo has both published a new book of poems called An American Sunrise and actively working to uplift other Native American poets and writers with three special projects: Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry; Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry; and When the Light of the World was Sub­dued, Our Songs Came Through — A Nor­ton Anthol­o­gy of Native Nations Poet­ry.

Each of these projects is a marvel of distinctive poetry, grounded literary voice, and historic abundance. Living Nations, Living Words: An Anthology of First Peoples Poetry is the first printed, historically comprehensive Native American poetry anthology. This anthology is paired with its sister project, a beautiful digital platform created in partnership with the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center. This project, Living Nations, Living Words: A Map of First Peoples Poetry, comprises a map (with no visible boundaries) that lists the origins of each participating author. State lines, names, cities, and even country markers have been removed to honor the wholeness of the land. 

“The earliest indigenous maps of North America were not drawn,” says Harjo, “They were markers that mirrored the layout of the heavens. Anything from a mountain to a simple basket could be a marker. Many native poems contain maps of stars and the skies, markers of the sacred lands.” 

Joy Harjo/Photograph by Julien Lienard


LitWatch May: Oregon Book Awards

Literary Arts rolls out the Book Award winners, kicking off a month of virtual events with Oprah, Whitney Otto, Stacey Abrams & Moby-Dick

ON MARCH 29, LITERARY ARTS announced the 2021 Oregon Books Award finalists, featuring 35 titles from across the state. On Sunday, May 2, we’ll find out who this year’s winners are. Finalists in seven categories, including the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction, Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry, and Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction, were chosen by panels of out-of-state judges, selecting one writer from each grouping as the winner.

2021 Oregon Book Awards Finalists, Literary Arts Website

Among the finalists are Portland poet Eg Skoog, whose Copper Canyon Press release, Travelers Leaving for the City, is up for the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. Skoog, born in Topeka, Kansas, is the author of three previous books of poems and is a visiting writer at the University of Montana. Based on the 1955 Pittsburgh murder of his own grandfather, Skoog has penned a “long song of arrivals and departures,” according to the publisher. One poem from the collection, Love is Like an Itching in My Heart, eternalizes Portland staple See See Motor Company in its opening lines: 

To wear a vigorous shirt. At See-See Coffee
       in the bathroom, a sticker on the hot-water tank
says It only takes one or two